In one of my mum’s photo albums there’s a photo of me looking pretty grumpy. I’m sat down wearing a dressing gown with a tea towel on my head and frowning. Everyone else is smiling widely and standing around a crib. So, the angels look much more cheerful about Jesus’ birth than me dressed as a shepherd!
Somehow December has arrived. Mince pies are on sale, Carol singing and Nativity plays are nearly here. Christmas is a time of wide smiles for lots of us. Yet, whether it’s the shopping bill or family pressures or the rush to get ready, Christmas throws up its fair share of frowns too.
That’s why, in the Bible’s Christmas story, I’m so glad we’re told about the shepherds just after Jesus is born. They were hard-working people doing long hours and they probably weren’t religious. But the sky lights up, an angel appears and they hear these words: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you.”
Simply, God wants us to know at Christmas that Jesus is good news for everybody. Whether you’re overworked or out of work, the angels say Jesus is for all the people. And they don’t announce it first to princes in palaces but to usual folk in fields.
Even better, Jesus is good news that “will cause great joy.” He didn’t come to Earth to cause frowns but to remove them. He came to bring joy: not a fleeting feeling which goes once the presents are opened, but the never-ending security and delight of walking through life, and even through death, knowing God as Friend and Saviour. That’s good news even to someone in the hardest of times.
The question is whether we know the joy only Jesus brings? And if not, why not come along to a Carol Service at our church this Christmas? After all, the shepherds rushed to meet Jesus. And not one of them was left frowning.
Rev Tim Partridge, St Andrew’s Church